12 October 2012

Ministerial Confession of 1651

In the 1640s our forefathers drew up the Westminster Standards, those marvelous statements of Christian doctrine that have stood the test of time and continue to guide the church today. Rich, careful, reverent, true.

A few years later, in 1651, a group of pastors in Scotland who had accepted these documents doctrinally realized that they had another need, not in their creeds but in their hearts. They determined that they needed not only to confess publicly these doctrines but also to confess publicly their sins as leaders of the church.

Here is part of what they confessed, reproduced in Horatius Bonar's Words to Winners of Souls.
Exceeding great selfishness in all that we do; acting from ourselves, for ourselves and to ourselves.

Not caring how faithful and negligent others were, if it might testify to our faithfulness and diligence, but being rather content, if not rejoicing, at their faults.

Seldom in secret prayer with God, except to fit for public performance; and that much neglected, or gone about very superficially.

Glad to find excuses for the neglect of our duties. Neglecting the reading of Scripture in secret, for edifying ourselves as Christians. . . . Not given to reflect upon our own ways, nor allowing conviction to have a thorough work upon us; deceiving ourselves by resting upon absence from and abhorrence of evils from the light of a natural conscience, and looking upon the same as an evidence of a real change of state and nature.

Not esteeming the cross of Christ and sufferings for his name honorable, but rather shifting sufferings from self-love.

Not laying to heart the sad and heavy sufferings of the people of God abroad, and the not-thriving of the kingdom of Jesus Christ and the power of godliness among them.

Refined hypocrisy; desiring to appear what, indeed, we are not. Artificial confessing of sin, without repentance. . . . Confession in secret much slighted, even of those things whereof we are convicted.

Readier to search out and censure faults in others than to see or deal with them in ourselves. Accounting of our estate and way according to the estimate that others have of us. . . .

Not praying for men of a contrary judgment, but using reservedness and distance from them; being more ready to speak of them than to them, or to God for them.

Not preaching Christ in the simplicity of the gospel, nor ourselves the people's servants, for Christ's sake. Preaching of Christ, not that the people may know him, but that they may think we know much of him. . . .

Too much eyeing our own credit and applause; and being pleased with it when we get it, and unsatisfied when it is lacking. Cowardice in delivering God's message; letting people die in reigning sins without warning.
--Horatius Bonar, Words to Winners of Souls (American Tract Society, 1950), 24-28; language slightly updated


Anonymous said...

Wow, Dane. Thanks for this.

The Blainemonster said...

Someone has been spying on my heart...

Matti said...

This is like a mirror of the soul. Great to see that even the Puritans struggled with the same issues that we do. The human depravity is inescapably real.

But so is the mystery of Christ that invites us away from it.